Kurt Helin

Jim Buss

Jim Buss stands by Kobe Bryant contract, says Lakers turned corner


Jim Buss knows he got it right.

His critics — and they are legion — would say he’s deluding himself, that he has made numerous mistakes that have set the Lakers’ franchise back. That starts with giving Kobe Bryant a massive two-year contract and comes around with other player/personnel decisions the team has made in recent years. Even the release of Robert Upshaw on Tuesday frustrated fans.

Buss knows this for sure — if the Lakers start to win and return to the top of the NBA, everything said about him will fade away. Winning cures all ills.

He talked about all of it in a must-read series of articles written by Sam Amick of the USA Today.

That starts with the rational to give Kobe a massive contract.

“You give Kobe Bryant $50 million for two years,” Buss told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging interview. “Are you kidding me? What did he bring us? In this day and age, what did he bring us, for 20 years? And if that isn’t what you’re supposed to do, then I have no idea what life is all about.

“You pay the guy. You believe in the guy. If he ends up (staying healthy), that’s fantastic. Well everybody (in the media) cut me up for that, but I’d say over 200 fans have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for letting my kid see Kobe Bryant for two more years.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m glad I can see him for two more years.’ “

The question was never “should the Lakers keep Bryant?” He’s an iconic part of the franchise, arguably the greatest Laker ever (at least in Jerry West’s mind). The question was the price. As has long been the conventional wisdom around the league, if Bryant had been offered and taken a Tim Duncanesque $10 million or so a year (and there is no guarantee Kobe would have accepted it), the Lakers would have had far more flexibility to make moves the past two seasons. Would they have landed a huge star free agent? Probably not. But their efforts to put together a foundation that would draw one of those stars in the next couple years could have been accelerated with some smart moves. We’ll never know how that timeline works out.

Buss sees paying Bryant as showing that next star the Lakers take care of their own. Plus, Kobe’s financial value to the Lakers — in terms of sponsors, ticket sales, luxury box sales, even television ratings (that massive local Lakers television deal is tied to ratings) — is far more than the checks they are cutting him. Even at that price Kobe is a good business deal.

Buss thinks the Lakers’ rebuilding is on course and the they are headed the right direction with D'Angelo Russell (selected over Jahlil Okafor, a move some questioned), Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson.

“We’re ahead of (the schedule), so I’m fine with it. I think we’ve turned the corner, exactly like we have (planned). Get a free agent next (summer), and then I think we compete.”

While there are certainly reasons for optimism, how good those three players turn out to be remains to be seen. Also in question is whether Byron Scott and the Lakers’ organization can develop those players, it has not needed to be an organization strong suit in the past. That said, the Lakers may have some good young players they can keep or use as assets to acquire more.

Saying Jim Buss is not his father is an unfair comparison — no NBA owner was his father. What’s more, the change in the NBA’s business rules over the last couple CBA’s have tied the hands of big market teams to a degree, removing some advantages. The Lakers for years were a combination of smart and having an enormous financial advantage; now the financial advantages have been drastically reduced.

Whether they are still smart in today’s, Buss feels he knows the answer to that.

If he’s right or not will become very clear over the next couple years.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Cavs big three all average 20 PPG?

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I think the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three — LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love — are good enough to bring the first title to Northeast Ohio since Roy Orbison released “Pretty Woman.”

But there are limits to how much they can do, and we cover that in this lastest PBT Extra bold prediction preview — those three cannot all average 20 points per game scoring.

The problem comes down to one thing: NBA rules insist that only one basketball can be used at a time on the court. There are only so many shots to go around (and guys like J.R. Smith and Mo Williams are going to get theirs, too). The numbers just will not work out, two of the three can get to 20 but not all three.

51 Questions: Who wins Rookie, Coach of Year, other NBA awards

2015 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Who will with the big NBA end-of-season awards?

Yesterday we talked MVP picks, and the entire PBT staff was on the same page — LeBron James.

Today we fan out into the other NBA end-of-season awards and the unanimity goes away. Here are our picks.

Rookie of the Year

Kurt: Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets)
Dan: Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets)
Sean: Jahlil Okafor (Sixers)

Kurt: Not only is he going to be the starting point guard for the Nuggets with the ball in his hands, but Mudiay also has good players around him that will keep the double-teams off him and give him options. With that he’ll rack up numbers.
Sean: Very often, this is a numbers award, and Okafor will likely average 20 and 10 on this Sixers roster.

Defensive Player of the Year

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Three

Kurt: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
Dan: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
Sean: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Dan: Draymond Green deserved the award last season, because he contributed more defensively by playing 15 more games than Leonard. But Leonard was the better defender, and health shouldn’t limit him this season.
Sean: Gobert put the league on notice in the second half of last season and has quickly become a media darling. With the Jazz expected to make the leap into playoff contention, Gobert will be the frontrunner here.

Coach of the Year

Kurt: Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat)
Dan: Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers)
Sean: Brad Stevens (Celtics)

Kurt: I think the Miami Heat make a big leap back to relevant — and dangerous — playing an entertaining, up-tempo style. Spoelstra will get credit for that, just beating out Jason Kidd for the award.
Dan: Most expect the Trail Blazers to fall sharply after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Arron Afflalo. If Stotts keeps Portland in the playoff race, that could get him this award.
Sean: Stevens checked all the narrative boxes — he got the Celtics competitive long before they were supposed to be, and is beloved by his players. If the Celtics stay in the playoff picture, he’ll get the votes.

Sixth Man of the YearIsaiah Thomas

Kurt: Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)
Dan: Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)
Sean: Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)

Dan: Thomas’ offensive aggressiveness transforms the Celtics. He’ll get plenty of chances to earn this award and accumulate scoring numbers that impress voters.

Most Improved Player

Kurt: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
Dan: Meyers Leonard (Trail Blazers)
Sean: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

Kurt: The Greek Freak has impressed with moments of his play and his potential the past two seasons, but this is the year he breaks out more in the public consciousness, and in the eyes of many voters.
Dan: Recipe for predicting this award: Find a player who’s quietly already good, in line for a bigger role and maybe also on the verge of real improvement.

Lamar Odom has been flown to Los Angeles to continue treatment

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom still has a long way to go — he is on dialysis because of kidney issues, and he can’t walk on his own — but he was stable enough to get out of the Las Vegas hospital where he has been recovering and be flown to Los Angeles to continue treatment.

Multiple news sources confirm the move, by helicopter, here is the update from E! Online.

E! News has exclusively learned that the former NBA star has been discharged from Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, where he has been receiving medical treatment after being found unconscious on Tuesday, and is heading to California. We’re also told that Lamar was accompanied by Khloé Kardashian in the helicopter ride to Los Angeles. As we reported earlier today, Odom’s transfer to L.A. was pending his condition remaining stable.

This is all good news for Odom, who was taken to the Las Vegas hospital after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel after a multiple-day binge of drugs, drinking, herbal supplements, and… well, he was in a brothel, what do you think was going on? He was barely clinging to life but has made a recovery to the point he is now breathing on his own, speaking, showing improvement with his heart, and even getting some physical therapy.

The former NBA All-Star now has months (and likely years) of work ahead, and we will see how much of a normal life he can regain. There probably will be some level of brain damage from his stroke, plus other physical maladies that will linger and limit him. The question that remains is how much?

But he seems to have physically survived it all.


PBT Extra bold predictions: Pacers top four seed? Nah.

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Indiana is one of the hardest teams to read coming into this season.

They get Paul George back for a full season, but how close is he to the player we saw before his injury? And he’s playing the four now as the Pacers change style and go small and to a more offensive-based system. How will George and his teammates adapt?

The playoffs are not out of the question, but unlike the bold prediction in this PBT Extra, they are not going to have home court in the first round. Paul George will not be an MVP candidate. Pacers fans shouldn’t get greedy.